Updated: Jul 13
| This is the 59th story of Our Life Logs |
Though I’m only about 24 years old, I’ve experienced the bitterness and sweetness of life. Throughout my journey, I had moments when I felt sorrowful, scared, doubtful, confused, as well as moments of happiness and triumph. I’m on my way to experience more.
1 | Growing up and Coming out
I was born in Columbus, Ohio in 1994. My parents divorced when I was only three months old and my father wasn’t really in the picture for most of my life. I’d see him here and there. We’d have moments where we’d have a decent relationship, but those moments were often short-lived. At the age of four, I moved to Ironton with my mother and grandma. Ironton is a small town on the southern-most tip of Ohio. It was a different experience being brought up just by women. I think it made me a much more empathetic person.
Ironton had many of the stereotypes of a small town. Everyone knew everyone, and most people were close-minded. It was around age 10 when I realized that I wasn’t like the other guys in my classes. I knew I was different but couldn’t come to terms with how I felt until high school. I never came out to my classmates, so I never faced persecution. It likely would have happened since I lived in such a traditional town.
My mom and grandma were devout Catholics, so I was sent to Catholic school. I was raised to be religious, but in my sophomore year of high school, I strayed away from the Catholic faith. I was tired of being fed religious lessons that I didn’t believe in anymore. Many of the teachings were meant to make people feel guilty for doing anything different from the expectations of the religion. I was sick of feeling guilty for who I was. I was gay, and no amount of guilt from the religion I’d been taught could change this integral part of me. I came out to my family and close friends this same year. My friends and mother were supportive of me, but my grandma took a little longer to warm up to the news. She’d been raised with conservative ways, so I wasn’t surprised. Her way of accepting it was by never ever bringing it up or asking questions about that part of my life.
2 | A Death in the Family
In my senior year of high school, my grandma unexpectedly passed away from a blood clot that traveled to her lungs. I was the first person to find her. I attempted to resuscitate her, but it was useless. She was gone. The woman I saw as a second mother was torn from me. It was a time of emotional turmoil. Through her whole life, my mother was extremely reliant on others, especially my grandma. Her death killed my mother’s spirit. I tried my best to be the stable force and the spokesperson for the family during the funeral arrangements.
My grandma’s death was a financial setback for us too. Since she was our main source of income, my mother had to finally start her life and get a job to provide for us. I worked odd jobs like mowing lawns and walking dogs to help. I was forced to become an adult before I had even finished high school.
I graduated high school in 2013 with the intention to go far away for college. Though with the loss of my grandma, I didn’t end up going to college right away. I took a year off to work and being there for my mom.
We moved in with my aunt and uncle after my grandma’s death to help get us back on our feet. They lived in the Florence, Kentucky area, so we were about three hours away from the home I was raised in. It was a difficult place to live at first because my aunt and uncle were having relationship problems and getting into fights a lot. It made me want to get out of the house as much as possible. I’d drive around the area or stay at friends’ houses, so I wouldn’t have to be around the conflict.
Later in life, my aunt and I became very close. Since my mother still hasn’t healed from the loss of my grandma, I never liked to burden her with my problems, so I’d go to my aunt. She became the most important person in my life because I know I can rely on her.
3 | A Fresh Start
I wanted a fresh start and to live away from home. I applied for colleges like University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, but scholarships fell through and I couldn’t afford it. I had to come up with a back-up plan, so I started applying to colleges in the Cincinnati area. I applied to The University of Cincinnati, Xavier, and Northern Kentucky University and toured all of them. I ended up liking NKU best and went in as an environmental science major.
I liked environmental science at first, but I soon realized that if I continued with program, I’d have to take the difficult science classes I had no interest in like Organic Chemistry. I enjoyed the geology and earth science parts of the program but didn’t have an interest in enduring the complicated chemistry classes. I changed to Spanish my sophomore year. I had taken five years of Spanish in high school and middle school, so I was fairly proficient. I also had always enjoyed the language and culture, so I knew it was the right fit for me.
Since I wasn’t able to get much assistance from my mother, I worked full time while going to school full time to afford my tuition. My first job was in logistics as a billing coordinator. I worked there for most of my college years. In February of 2017, I started work as a sustainability intern to raise awareness of environmental topics on NKU’s campus.
I was lucky enough to travel the world through NKU’s study abroad programs. In Fall of 2017, I was given the chance to study abroad for five months in Mexico to take Spanish classes there. I stayed with a nice host family and was given 12 credit hours from classes taken while I was there. It gave me a chance to practice my Spanish in a real-world setting. We also got to go to nearby places like Cuba and Belize. I loved it. I did struggle with some of the slang, but I overall had a great experience. I met two of my closest friends that were from another college through the program. I’m still close with them today. One of my favorite memories is sitting with them on a rooftop in Cuba, talking about life.
4 | Finding My Passion
As I neared the end of my undergraduate career, I had to begin looking toward the future. I knew I wanted to go on for a master’s degree. I contemplated going for a master’s in social work because I love working with people through my job. Though the more I thought about what I really wanted to do in my heart, I knew that wasn’t it. I wanted in my heart to teach. I’d had an interest in teaching from a very young age. I was always the teacher’s pet in my classes. I had a lot of passions growing up and one of my favorite things to do was to tell people all about them. Teaching is a great way to tell people all about something you care about, so I knew it was the perfect choice. I applied for a few master’s programs, but ultimately chose the University of Cincinnati to become a Spanish teacher.
I’ll be graduating with a bachelor’s degree in May and beginning my master’s program in January of next year. I have high hopes for my future. I hope to be teaching high school Spanish within the next five years.
I’ve come a long way since my grandma’s passing. I believe her death forced me to look at my life differently. I have always been a positive person but losing her helped me become even more positive. I don’t take my life for granted. I’ve become stronger through my upbringing. It was thanks to my experiences that I discovered my passion for teaching. I’ve learned that if you aren’t sure what your passion is, find it, and pursue it to find happiness. It’s okay to not be sure what you want at first. Your passion will bubble to the surface as you grow if you open yourself up to opportunity.
“Sometimes it’s the journey that teaches you a lot about your destination.”
This is the story of Ronnie Brown
Ronnie currently lives in Kentucky with a friend. With the loss of his grandma, Ronnie was forced to grow up quickly. This helped propel him into adult life and create a career path where he could do something he was passionate about. Ronnie loves to go hiking, spending time with his friends, and reading in his spare time. He’s currently into a lot of Spanish novels. He’ll be starting school at UC in January for his master’s. He plans to move to Cincinnati with his partner in August. He looks forward to the day that he can share his passion of the Spanish language and culture with other people. Since November 2017, Ronnie has been working as the administrative assistant for a non-profit that helps the local population through various means such as drop-in centers and drug recovery programs.
This story first touched our hearts on April 2, 2018.
| Writer: Kristen Petronio | Editor: Colleen Walker; Manqing Jin |